Managing the 24-Hour Workday

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Demanding careers often go beyond the 9-to-5. Here's how to unplug without losing touch.

A 2014 Gallup survey reveals what many of us already know: Checking work e-mail during your off-hours adds significantly to your stress level. It can also hurt your overall work performance, says Jan Jasper, a New York City–based productivity coach and author of Take Back Your Time (St. Martin's Press). "People are too stressed out to be productive."

Between e-mails, texts and social media sites, many of us are expected to be on call to respond quickly to colleagues and clients. While you may not be able to tune out completely, here's how to stay in touch while maintaining some control of your personal time.

Designate periods to respond

"Having an e-mail auto-reply that reads 'Thanks for your e-mail, but I am out of the office and will reply within 24 hours' sets expectations," says Mario Armstrong, digital lifestyle expert for NBC's Today. And those constant texts? Set a time each night to read and respond. "Have specific downtimes when you put your phone in airplane mode," Armstrong says.

Be willing to relinquish control

Many of us suffer from the super-woman syndrome, thinking we have to find the fix for every crisis in the office. But empowering others to handle things in our absence is part of growing as a manager, says Ertharin Cousin, executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme. Cousin surrounds herself with smart, committed people and then authorizes them to make decisions while she is away. When she's off, she gives herself an hour to check in, then trusts her team to keep things moving. "I learned early on in my career that it is poor managers who do not have faith in their teams," she says.

Let technolgy keep you on target

Smartphone apps like Mailbox (mailbox and Boomerang (boomerang allow you to write e-mails that can be delivered at a later date, and they can also remind you to read or reply to e-mails that arrived during your downtime, Armstrong advises. If you absolutely can't stop tweeting or checking your social media accounts, use smartphone apps like Freedom ( to curb online distractions by locking you off-line for a period of time, Jasper suggests.

This article was originally published in September issue of ESSENCE magazine, on newsstands now. 

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